snow summit road
Snow lingers on the side of Soquel San Jose Road toward the summit on Feb. 27. Photo: Tarmo Hannula

The National Weather Service issued another cold weather advisory for the Los Gatos area on Tuesday, as rain and snow continued to pummel Bay Area communities.

But it can be surprisingly challenging to evaluate snow levels in areas like the Santa Cruz Mountains, according to weather experts.

“There’s a lot of drifting of snow on the highest peaks,” said Rick Canepa, a National Weather Service meteorologist for the San Francisco Bay Area. “Mount Hamilton had over a foot of snow.”

In an interview with the Los Gatan on Friday, Canepa explained that the local area had already gotten wallopped, with more inclement weather on the way.

In fact, both Mount Saint Helena and Mount Diablo had already been hit with 12 inches of snow.

“We’re expecting more precipitation going into the weekend and early next week,” he predicted at the time.

And Canepa sure was right.

By Monday at 3:22pm, the National Weather Service issued a warning for the South Bay, that pea-sized hail was likely on the way.

The area has witnessed snow down to about 500 feet above sea level—and a lot of it, Canepa commented.

“It’s a rare amount of snow to see in the Bay Area,” he said. “Snowfall is tough to measure, anyhow, just inherently, because there’s wind involved with precipitation falling—and that can blow and drift the snow around.”

The unique winter wonderland experienced by Los Gatans was a result of a combination of cold air arriving from up north as precipitation began to form.

But things can turn from a playful daytime scene to danger as the mercury drops in the evening, Canepa added.

“At nighttime this will lead to patchy, black ice forming and so that will definitely make for dangerous driving conditions,” he said. “That’s a caveat to take away.”

Canepa said the most vulnerable residents of the area become more at-risk during times like these.

“A freeze-warning is a heads-up for sub-freezing temperatures in the range of, say, about 28 degrees for at least a couple hours,” he said. “So it’s a dangerous temperature for unsheltered populations especially.”

The National Weather Service issued just such a freeze-warning for the Bay Area on Tuesday at 1:22pm, which was expected to last until today at 8am.

“Colder air tonight into early Wednesday will bring very cold conditions across the region,” a spokesperson said on Twitter, predicting temperatures in the 28-32 degree range.

Canepa advised residents to bring pets indoors and take steps to protect pipes from freezing.

Canepa said a cold front on Feb. 28 would continue to bring rain showers to the valley and “the frozen variety of snow at higher elevations” through early March 1.

By Wednesday afternoon, temperatures are forecast to reach the lower-50s with “mostly sunny to sunny” skies, and the mercury dropping to the low-30s at night, he continued. Thursday is expected to be sunny, with high temperatures in the upper-50s. 

Then on Friday is forecast another cold front, with lows in the mid- to upper-30s, Canepa said. Over the weekend a chance of showers is expected throughout Santa Clara County. That system could bring a “light dusting” of snow Saturday night and Sunday morning to elevations about 3,000 feet and higher, and along the peaks of the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

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